9 February 2017

Executive Sleep, Executive Function

Did you know if you have been awake for close to 17 hours you likely have the cognitive function of a person with a blood alcohol level of .05%. After 20 hours it’s close .1%.

That’s a bad place to be if you are in a leadership position and are expected to be, and are renumerated for being on top of your game. It’s bad enough if you are a corporate executive or office worker, but what if you are a doctor, heavy vehicle operator or pilot?

Much like the drunk driver who knows they are dunk but drives anyway, people know they are exhausted and tired but try to make high level decisions.

With the exception of the military and some industries like Aviation, who are highly experienced at managing and planning for sleep deprivation, spotting it and training for it, the rest of us push on because we are aware we are tired but are rarely aware of the impact it has on us. In the white collar world there is very little oversight through HR policies and procedures to manage its impacts on business. It is even seen as a badge of honour to wok insane hours forgoing sleep and ‘dominating’ in the workplace.

Your prefrontal cortex (the front part of your neocortex) is responsible for executive (brain) function and by extension your effective functioning as an executive.

The neocortex is responsible for:
• Sensory perception,
• motor commands,
• and language.

The prefrontal cortex (executive functioning) is responsible for:
• Problem solving,
• Reasoning,
• Organising,
• Inhibition,
• Planning,
• and executing plans.

Your neocortex suffers heavily when tired. You literally suffer cognitive impairment. You can have fun playing with this standard psychology test for neocortex impairment. It’s called the Stroop test here. Well rested in the morning or after a good nap and you can get 100% providing you are otherwise mentally healthy. Try it after a few drinks or lack of sleep at the end of a long day (say 20 hours) and see how you compare.

Look again at that list above. Those functions are vital to being an effective manager, leader, or even just being on top of your game in ANY role within your business or personal life. Exhausted parents struggle to manage children and relationships effectively compounding the tiredness further. Exhausted executives make poor decisions at every level and interaction that can compound further leading to more issues with stress and fatigue.

You can deep dive into the effects of poor sleep on executives and corporate outcomes in this McKinsey&Company research report

Poor sleep is not necessarily the result of a poor work culture or a recent heavy travel schedule. Real things like depression, medical conditions, diseases, diet and marriage or family problems can contribute. The lack of sleep, as you can see in that list, can compound your ability to make sound rational decisions when trying to deal with and manage those situations, leading to a downward spiral.

At Performance Solutions we are both coaches and psychologists – we can help you get back to your best at work and at home.

Sleep well.

4 October 2016

University of Queensland MBA Careers Week – Building an Effective Business Network

Rupert Bryce delivered a workshop to UQ MBA Careers week to discuss the psychology and emotions of effective business networking. For graduates trying to advance their career prospects, the thought of networking can can surface fears, hesitation and doubt. We discussed a new framework for building a productive network (as opposed to the popular concept ‘networking’). The three key outcomes delivered to the graduate school were:

  • Manage and know yourself – eliminating the fears and concerns to building a network for career success
  • Practical tips on how to enter, sustain and exit conversions in new settings
  • Mapping your network to strategically build advocates and sponsors for career success (see attached photo and link)
The presentation and conversation was exceptionally well received and helped build the confidence and capability of UQ MBA Graduates.

21 March 2016

Peer Accountability and Your Dysfunctional Team

Peer accountability in the workplace is about creating a culture in which employees (instead of managers) hold each other accountable for their behaviours and performance. In a team environment, a culture of peer accountability can be a powerful motivator for performance. Rewards and punishments for lack of results may motivate some, but no one likes to let their team mates down, particularly when they respect each other.

 More than any policy or system, there is nothing like the fear of letting down respected teammates that motivate people to improve their performance.

Patrick Lencioni, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Barriers to Peer Accountability

There are two main barriers to creating a culture of accountability. The first is how people view accountability. People often equate accountability to “being held accountable for their actions”, which has punitive and often even childish connotations. Creating a culture of accountability is not about punishing people for their actions or behaviours, instead it means creating a team environment where people support their teammates in achieving their goals, and feels comfortable in discussing if someone’s behaviours have let them down or are preventing the team from delivering.

The second barrier is often an unwillingness to provide negative feedback to team members. People are often afraid to criticise others, fearing that it may lead to conflict or impact upon the team’s relationships. According to Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, teams that fear conflict create environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive, they ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success, and they waste time and energy with posturing and interpersonal risk management. This leads to a failure to commit, an absence of trust and a team that is not focused on results.

Outcomes of peer accountability

A culture of peer accountability increases performance and team cohesion. It promotes trust, unfiltered (yet constructive) conflict around ideas, commitment to decisions and ideas, and a focus on the achievement of collective results.

Tips and Tools

The true measure of a team is that it achieves it “purpose” i.e. the results it sets out the achieve. To do this, a team must overcome the five dysfunctions:

  1. Absence of trust
  2. Fear of conflict
  3. Lack of commitment
  4. Avoidance of accountability
  5. Inattention to results

ACTION: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team resource is always a good place to start when talking about peer accountability and team cohesion. You can take this five minute on the spot quiz to assess the effectiveness of your team.

Reflection: What do your results tell you about your team? Does peer accountability play an important role in helping you and your colleagues achieve your purpose?


14 March 2016

Workplaces in Crisis: What are the Warning Signs?

Occupational Psychologists specialise in human behaviour in the workplace and are increasingly sort after by Australian employers to help to improve the efficiency of the organisations by developing a specific set of skills and behaviours among employees.

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics recently ranked industrial Occupational Psychologists as the fastest growing occupation in the US. The BLS is expecting a growth rate of 53 per cent in companies engaging organisational psychologists in the US between now and 2022 to help with the increasing demands placed on employees in the workforce today.

Macquarie University senior lecturer and organisational psychologist Ben Searle says organisational psychologists typically work in planning, policy and HR departments and are often valued members of senior management teams. Listing the top workplace stresses, he says “the issues that cause the most stress include juggling demands with inadequate resources, heavy workloads and time pressures, having to tackle multiple tasks, bureaucracy and red tape, no clear guidelines and ambiguity about a person’s role, conflict between work and home, office interpersonal issues, and physical danger.

“All workers handle stress differently and a good organisational psychologist will look not just at how a company is functioning but how each individual reacts to different situations.”

Unlike other consultants, organisational psychologists can show causality between their contribution in an organisation and the improvement among employees. Their effects are tangible, immediate and long term which benefits both the organisation and the worker and helps build competence and proficiency among the team as a whole as well as on an individual level.

Performance Strategies director and performance psychologist Rupert Bryce says the key is for employers and workplaces to recognise when outside expertise is needed and act on it in a timely manner.

“Increasingly, I work with clients who approach me at the crisis stage of the issue in their organisation, when the stakes are high and so are the emotions among employees. Leaders and managers are lacking the skills that enable them to recognise early warning signs, those key indicators that tell us that stress, change, communication barriers and wellbeing is reaching a point where outside help is needed to get things back on track”.

So what are the early warning signs?

  • Changes to communication style or behaviours such as withdrawing or declining invitations or requests.
  • Shifting patterns, for example a person who is usually early or on time for work is now showing up late.
  • Disproportionate emotions, for example significant negativity around small events or changes.
  • Perspective and judgement, for example a person regularly loses perspective of a situation or is making the wrong decisions.

ACTION: What warning signs have you recently observed in your workplace or amongst your employees? How long have these warning signs been happening?